Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

The Vicissitudes of Al-Jazeera TV Network

2016-01-18

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

No one need be surprised by news of the demise of AJAM: Al-Jazeera America. In 2013, people unfamiliar with the history and politics of the Doha-based Al-Jazeera media group welcomed the American edition as a valued addition to international(ized) news sources. Early enthusiasm was likely based on an outdated reputation of the original Al-Jazeera’s satellite network, launched in 1999 and funded by Qatar’s rulers. That Arabic language service dazzled the world when it arrived, its reputation for hard-hitting news stories reinforced by the Jehane Noujaim’s 2004 film “Control Room”.

The original (mother) Al-Jazeera offered news coverage and commentaries by non-Europeans, talents generally unheard and unimagined from Arabs, concerning their world affairs.

Why AJAM was set up is a mystery. The American public could benefit from wider perspectives. But AJAM did not offer that; it exhibited no enlightened Arab or Muslim viewpoints, neither in its productions nor editorials. Neither were Arab and Arab American staff in evidence in its productions.

If American viewers don’t tap international sources like Euronews, France 24, Press TV (the Iranian English language channel), or Russia’s RT, to name the major English sources beyond CBC (Canada) and the UK’s BBC, why subscribe to AJAM? Long before, in 2006 Al-Jazeera English (also Doha-based) was launched and has established itself of an innovative and distinctive network. Originally accessible in the USA online and by satellite, it boasts a strong international team who produce hard hitting programs like “Witness” and “Empire”, with a network of correspondents across the globe. It attracts left-leaning audiences for its critical approach to American policies and its support for the Palestinian struggle, with coverage from Occupied Palestine unseen on American networks. Its website also carries insightful opinion pieces, many by well informed American Arab writers whose perspectives you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

(With the founding of ALAM, Al-Jazeera English became unavailable in the US online.)

The original Al-Jazeera (Arabic) news channel has changed dramatically since its spectacular arrival in 1996. Then it was marked by a high professional standard of journalism and an aggressive approach to international affairs previously unknown in the Arab lands whose exclusively Arab staff equals –no, excels—British and French Arabic language channels. (Although, Al-Jazeera Arabic initially drew its technical and editorial staff largely from the BBC.) It attracted Lebanese, Palestinian, Algerian and Egyptian expatriate journalists whose homelands were either in turmoil or where opportunities and facilities were limited. Al-Jazeera tapped the most dynamic, creative and courageous Arab journalists in the world; it’s work generated new pride among the Arab public, encouraged by quality public dialogue happening within its own ranks. Arabs’ economic resources were finally being put to good use. By 2003 the network boasted 70 correspondents and 23 bureaus around the world, from Cairo to Jakarta, Islamabad to Kabul, London to Moscow.

Initially Al-Jazeera Media Network, although funded and managed by Qatar’s ruling family, seemed to be independent of government control; it appeared to be beyond US interference too. Indeed Washington suggested the network was a mouthpiece for terrorists, when for example, after 2001, it regularly aired videos produced by Al-Qaida. American military attacks were launched on Al-Jazeera twice. Al-Jazeera’s Baghdad office was bombed and its correspondent Tarek Ayoub was killed in American strikes during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before that, in the early days of the US assault on Afghanistan, Al-Jazeera’s Sudanese cameraman was held by US authorities at the Guantanamo prison.  

Although Qatari and other Gulf area leaders escape criticism by Al-Jazeera, other regional dictators do not; at times, in e.g. Algeria and Jordan, its correspondents were banned. Although by 2003 satellite TV was ubiquitous and every Arab home has had access to Al-Jazeera news which also sent reports direct from Jerusalem (with a sympathetic eye to Palestinian aspirations). Its broadcasts brought Israeli officials and commentators into Arab homes for the first time.

As the company grew in popularity—a reputation that’s declined since the Arab Spring--it greatly expanded its services. Al-Jazeera Media Network is now a vast communications empire with several sports channels, a children’s channel and a documentary channel, all commercial free. Before it opened AJAM, Al-Jazeera established a Balkan unit and a Turkish unit.

Al-Jazeera’s appeal for its early presentations of regional political issues waned among Arabs as the US occupation of Iraq turned ugly, and after 2011, when with the rise of the so-called Arab Spring, Qatar’s policy towards Libya and Syria moved in synch with Washington’s. Indeed, the Doha news channel explicitly advocates regime change in Syria and Libya.

Meanwhile Al-Jazeera enjoys considerable soft power through its sports and documentary channels. Screened documentaries, many produced by US filmmakers critical of American policies, are popular with the Arab public. But the sports channels likely draw most viewers. As a depressing political status quo settles across the Arab world, public need for escapist entertainment is stronger than ever, and Al-Jazeera is there to help. 

 

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